“blur” defies definition


Ohana Sarvotham

“blur” will hold 49 performances, each for a single audience member.

Ella Labarre, Staff Writer

On Oct. 5, 2022, Grinnell’s Flana- gan Theatre premiered its production of “blur,” an immersive performance experience directed by professor of theater Craig Quintero. Six students brought the show to life by creating a multifaceted and boundary-push- ing theatrical performance. Seven twelve-minute performances took place daily over the course of seven days, making a total of 49 short shows.

Unlike most ordinary plays, “blur” is performed for an audience of one person, and as such, it is complete- ly tailored to the audience. The actor gauges how they will perform based on how they analyze the audience. For example, if an audience member seems more settled, the actor will perform in a way that provokes excitement and energy. This flexibility allows a direct connection between them and the actor.

“Oftentimes in theater, if you’re on a big stage, you’re performing to darkness because you can’t see them because of the theater lights. In this [performance], there’s direct eye con- tact, there’s contact with the audience. So, it’s really something where it’s not about going to see a performance, but it’s about experiencing something.” said Director Quintero.

Due to the nature of the show, the rehearsal process started without a script and focused on improvisation. Students would slowly begin to devel- op their own ideas and visions through- out rehearsal while expanding upon the creativity of their performance.

“It’s a lot of trial and error. I think we definitely try a lot of stuff out just to see if it works. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but if it does, then it’s exciting because that’s something new that we can add to the show.” said actor Caroline Berry `26.

Given the show’s raw, vulnerable style, some caveats were bound to arise due to the precision required to keep the mechanics of the show fluid. In typ- ical performances, it is often easier to conceal the technical aspects of a show that create its magic, but because of the lack of distance between the audience and the performer in “blur,” more work was put in by both the crew and the ac- tors. From there, a fully formed show began to emerge and led to the expe- riences that were performed on stage during the 49 performances.

The performance immersed the audience right away by leading them through a dark corridor. From there, the audience member traveled through a moving room, with help from crew members, while watching the actor through a screen. The set involved many quirks to further immerse the audience such as giving the audience member different foods and having them interact with puppets.

While traditional theater has its merits, theater at Grinnell College is looking to challenge these boundaries and push performance in new, unortho- dox directions. “blur” did exactly that.

“I was excited about college the- ater because I could have experienc- es like this, since my previous drama teacher only really wanted to stick to traditional shows. There’s room for us to suggest our own ideas and try things out which I really liked,” said Berry.

As Quintero puts it, “blur” is a pro- duction that makes the audience lose themselves in order to find themselves, truly “blurring” the line between the performance and the audience’s intro- spection.

Performances of “blur” will be held from Oct. 5-11 in Flanagan The- atre within the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.